September 27th, 2005 - Granada, Spain
I was leaving the Royal Chapel and about to return to my hotel when suddenly I heard coming from one of the tiny alley-ways that criss-cross the area around the cathedral the most piercing, anguished cry I had ever heard in my life. Immediately, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
It took me a couple of minutes to locate the source of the cry : the man in the green tee-shirt, white socks and cap in the photograph above. Together with his guitarist friend - a quite superb flamenco virtuoso who turned out, curiously, to be not Spanish but Italian - he was performing the unique Andalusian song form known as "cante jondo", best known outside Spain through the works of Manuel de Falla and Federico Garcia Lorca, who described it as follows :
"The cante jondo approaches the rhythm of the birds and the natural music of the black poplar and the waves; it is simple in oldness and style. It is also a rare example of primitive song, the oldest of all Europe, where the ruins of history, the lyrical fragment eaten by the sand, appear live like the first morning of its life."
For almost an hour the pair performed - watched throughout by the gorgeous couple seen holding hands here - with an intensity and purety of emotional expression that I have never heard before or since. It was quite simply one of the most remarkable moments of my life.
When finally their performance ended - the singer simply stopped in the middle of a song, took a huge swig from the bottle he had carefully hidden in a doorway and marched off down the street - I spoke with the guitarist, who spoke more than passable English. Naturally, I asked him about his partner. "He is gone now," he said. "He will be back one day soon. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after." Then, after pausing for a moment in order to be sure of finding just the right words, he added, "He is mad. Not a little mad, you understand, but very mad indeed. But he is harmless."
I'm proud and flattered to say that this image has been included, alongside work by some truly outstanding street photographers, amongst "60 Incredible Street Photos" in the section The Beauty of Street Photography in Smashing Magazine.